Lexi Rath has been passionate about music her whole young life.
In December, the Burlington Central senior, who has participated in the District 301 music program for the past eight years, shared that passion with the community by planning, coordinating and supervising the unique Sleigh Bells Ring Extravaganza.
Rath, who has been a Girl Scout for 11 years and is currently a member of Girl Scouts Northern Illinois, Apache Service Unit, Troop 559, was awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award for her efforts regarding the extravaganza, the most prestigious and most difficult to earn award bestowed in Girl Scouts.
According to the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Gold Award is awarded to fewer than six percent of Girl Scouts annually. Earning the award is a lengthy and time-consuming seven-step process that begins by identifying a community issue and then solving it.
Combining her love for music with a glaring need in the community, Rath was able to not only fill a three-year void by producing an arts showcase but to expand on it with more offerings as well as tie it in with the holiday season.
“Our school district used to have a Fine Arts Showcase and there would be art and the middle school band would perform all in one day,” she said. “They did away with that, so I came up with the extravaganza, a daylong event showcasing all the ensembles of the high school.”
She also wanted to provide an event that gave the music kids a chance to show off their talents, just like the athletes get to do.
“Our school, like any other school, likes to promote sports and I want to give the students an opportunity to showcase their musical talent,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to come out and enjoy music.”
Extravaganza was a good word choice for the event because Rath’s production truly was spectacular, showcasing nine musical groups while providing activities for the entire family. There was plenty of food and refreshments, a vendor/craft fair, musical petting zoo, horse-drawn sleigh rides and lots of vocal and instrumental music and holiday cheer, including an “All Sing” with traditional holiday songs.
Paying close attention to detail and potential obstacles, Rath recognized that many students participate in multiple music programs and would have a long day at the extravaganza. That also meant that it would be busy day for parents, siblings and grandparents who wanted to support their loved one. So while the extravaganza centered around music, Rath made sure to offer a variety of other activities to keep attendees occupied and entertained.
Rath began playing in the school band while in fifth grade, but switched from flute, which her mother played, to clarinet after just a few weeks. She still plays the clarinet today.
“I had a wonderful teacher in middle school who ignited the passion in me and was one of the best band directors ever,” she said. “In high school I got a leadership role as the woodwind captain of the marching band of about 140 kids or more which was a big group to lead.”
It’s music or bust with the 17-year-old as she can’t imagine life without it.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” she said. “I don’t excel in sports so music has always been what I go to more.”
It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Rath loves all different kinds of music.
“Music is huge and I like every genre of music,” she said. “Of course, there’s certain music I like more than others, but I like Korean pop, so yeah, I like a lot of music, and I also listen to rock, and classic rock is a big favorite.”
Rath also has been inducted into the National Spanish Honor Society and is a member of the Peer Leaders and the Tech Club at Burlington Central. She also appeared in the anti-bullying musical operetta, “I Am The Music.”
Making a difference
While having such an affinity for music certainly made her a great fit for such an enormous task of developing and then hosting the extravaganza, that doesn’t mean it was simple. Actually, far from it.
“It definitely was very difficult and the logistical stuff was what was most difficult for me in putting together so many moving parts,” she said. “I had a lot of people to work with – advisors, music boosters, students, the bands and choruses, the principal and superintendent – but it was totally worth it.”
As soon as Rath received the Bronze Award while in elementary school, she realized that she was on the path toward Gold.
“From that point forward I wanted to try for Gold,” she said. “I knew doing it I would be able to really showcase my talent and I learned a lot along the way. I actually have a boyfriend who just got his Eagle Scout so he knows all about it and he’s been very supportive every step of the way.”
No one saw Rath’s progression from a little kid, even before receiving her Bronze Award, to a young woman today better than her mother, Mary Kaye Rath, who has also been her scout leader since she was a Brownie.
“I watched her grow as a scout leader from a second grader who would stand behind me or by my side and not wanting to ask people to buy Girl Scout cookies to someone I would see standing up there announcing everything at this event,” Mary Kaye Rath said. “I was so thrilled as a scout leader. It’s awesome to see the growth. And as a mom you’re just so proud to see your child organize it and then standing up there with the superintendent of the entire district who was beaming about such a wonderful community event. And then to have her high school band wind ensemble as the finale.”
An annual extravaganza
One of the requirements of the Gold Award is that it’s sustainable, and one of the final steps is to share the project beyond the local community, inspiring others to take action in their own communities. Thanks to the success of the extravaganza, it should be back next year, while Rath will be in Nashville attending Belmont University and pursuing a degree in neuroscience. Additionally, others can now utilize the blueprint she created.
“It’s sustainable and the school’s music boosters have decided to pick it up after I’m gone,” Rath said. “That’s exciting and I know it will be excellent.”